Dems Dig For GOP Votes Ahead Of Key Financial Reform Vote

Congressional Quarterly/Newscom

The fate of financial reform in the Senate remains very much in flux tonight, with Democrats facing the stark reality that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has once again managed to unite his caucus in opposition to the Dems’ top legislative initiaive. But Democrats remain determined to bring their bill up for a key test vote as early as Monday, and have statements from a number of Republican senators to point to as evidence that they will prevail sooner rather than later.

Is it the same Lucy and Charlie Brown routine again?Last week, Democrats turned up the dial on the bravado to 11. Some even went so far as to bask in the possibility that Republicans would obstruct progress on what remains a very popular issue. That bravado remains. But now, for the first time, Dems are forced to contend with the real possibility that Republicans will vote together to block debate on Wall Street reform. Today, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner scurried from a meeting with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to a separate meeting with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), hoping to lock up at least one GOP vote to break an expected filibuster. (Geithner has also asked for a meeting with at least one other Senator–Ohio Republican George Voinovich–but that meeting isn’t likely to occur this week.)

So where does this leave the Democrats? After a long day of courting Republican swing votes, they remain at least a vote shy of the 60 they’ll need to break a filibuster and debate the bill. But they may have a few reasons for optimism. Snowe, for instance, suggested this evening that it wouldn’t take many substantive changes to win her support.

Tonight, just off the Senate floor, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told reporters that he and other members had expressed to their leadership that they want a bill to pass. Earlier in the day in an appearance on MSNBC Corker predicted that there would ultimately be 70 votes for a final package. “At the end of the day, despite all the rhetoric, I believe that we’re going to end up with a 70-vote bill,” Corker said. “I believe that with all my heart, and I think we’ll do it before Memorial Day.”

“I think that we’re closer than we ever were,” Sen Richard Shelby (R-AL), the GOP’s top financial reform negotiator. Shelby predicted that Republicans would sustain their filibuster until Republicans and Democrats reached a deal on a package of amendments addressing Republicans concerns.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), the Democrats point man on reform thinks things will go a bit differently.

“I always find people get more ready when they realize you’re going to vote,” Dodd told reporters tonight. You’re going to have a lot of explaining to do if you’re gonna vote to not allow us to even debate this bill.”

If Republicans do filibuster, Dodd added, “then we go back and have other cloture motions and keep at it. I had six cloture motions on a housing bill two years ago…. And we got a deal on that.”

The pressure is building.